Wednesday, October 26, 2016

IFCOMP 2016 Reviews

I've been playing a few games from the 2016 Interactive Fiction Competition at random that have interesting cover art or concepts to me, and have written a few short reviews for 7 games out of the bunch. If I have time to play and review more, there will be a part 2 to this blog.. but I wanted to go ahead and get a few out.



*** Color the Truth by mathbrush ***

 This is a mystery game that looks like it will have a lot of conversation in it. After reading the ABOUT text, it looks like the gameplay system will be more complex than the old Infocom mystery games.

 Actually, at the very start the game throws out a handful of conversation topics and the system of choosing topics and "linking" them feels pretty smooth. Changing characters when an NPC gives a statement feels a little weird. I started to think perhaps just a wall-of-text would suffice for these events, but that would eliminate the possibility of throwing in a couple of puzzles here and there during the flashback.

 Repeating actions in the flashbacks can seem a bit annoying, but is nessasary for revealing new bits of the investigation. Pretty cool game.

*** Snake's Game by Nahian Nasir ***

 First "web" game of the bunch I tried. I'm partial to parser games, but I do really like a CYOA once in a while if the story is good. The story is definitely weird, but actually wasn't as weird or creepy as I was expecting. The choices seemed pretty linear. This one really isn't bad, but I didn't enjoy it all that much.

*** Ariadne in Aeaea by Victor Qjuel **

 This is a parser-driven game written in Inform7. It's a pretty amusing story, but none of the humor made me laugh out loud. I was hoping the topless ceremonial lady in the cover art was somehow depicted in the game, and she was! Old auntie. Nice.

 The environment of the game itself seems well-rounded. NPCs react different when you walk by in in different attire than you did previously and other features. I did end up glancing at the walkthrough probably a bit too more than I should have early on, so I can't really speak to the difficulty of the puzzles.. but for the most part they seemed fairly easy and not too obscure with exception to probably would have had a bit of back-tracking to do had I not skimmed the walkthrough early on. There perhaps could have been less rooms and more time spent on more parser understandings.. such as "herder" when referring to a "goatherder".

*** Riot  by Taylor Johnson ***

 Another CYOA game. This one got me interested in the beginning, but then I end up with the same complaints I have with many of these types of games. My choices seem either too linear, and at times I'm asked to make choices that I wonder if any sane being would do, like correcting a random strangers broken nose. I straightened a friends dislocated finger in RealLife when I was about 12 after making an impulse decision, but I was young and he was no stranger. I don't think it ever healed correctly either..

 I felt like this story was ok, but not great. I did get into it more than Snake's Game.

*** Toilet World - by Chet Rocketfrak ***

 This sounds promising. Though on closer examination, it's just a "joke" game. Whatever, let's give it a shot. I'm told I'm in this glorious world of toilets, surrounded by toilets. Cool. I think I got this.

You can’t see any such thing.

 Oh hell nah. So, in short what we seem to have here is a "joke" game that's basically a few room descriptions filled with typos, no implementation of objects, nothing to really do. Or maybe I'm missing some grand game behind the scenes that I couldn't figure out how to throw the right parser commands at to unlock. Probably not however, considering there is no walkthrough included.

** Ventilator - by Peregrine Wade **

 Ha! Now this one has some humor to it, at least in the death messages. There's no walkthrough included either with this parser game, so I didn't expect it to be too long. The few puzzles are pretty abstract, but it didn't take me long to figure them out. The ending was kind of a head-scratcher, but I found this more fun than the web-based games so far.

*** Cactus Blue Motel - by Astrid Dalmady ***

 A web game with some cool-looking text upon starting up. You play a girl on a road-trip with two of your friends traveling across the desert until you come to a stop at a desolate hotel. The game has nice visuals, but oh man these choices. The actual path to the finish line seems like it's fairly linear, but I'm forced to re-ask various NPCs questions over and over again until new options pop up. The author perhaps should have made previously asked questions that you've already read responses for disappear. The story seemed kind of interesting but the gameplay system made it very difficult to enjoy.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Getting RunUO to work in Amazon Linux

I had run an Ultima Online server for quite some time on an old PC running Ubuntu Linux. Once I backed up all of the data from the shard and turned off that old box, I never got around to relaunching the server until this weekend.

Since I am already running an Amazon Linux instance for my website and a Quake II server that is very rarely used, I copied up my entire RunUO 2.0 folder backup to the server and got started. The first step is installing Mono.

sudo yum install mono

I tried then starting the server and ran into errors regarding missing DLL files. This was fixed by using:

sudo yum install mono-*

In the Scripts/Misc folder I had to update the address line in ServerList.cs to my new DNS as well as update any data paths (there are only a couple so long as you aren't using a lot of custom scripts with hard coded data paths) that it whined about when trying to start the server again.

At that point, it looked as if all was well. That as until I tried to walk into a moongate to transfer to another area. The server instantly crashed. In the terminal running the server, I see that it can't find a specific zlib version. I was able to find the version it was complaining about not seeing ( here at and compiling the file was simply a matter of "./configure" and "make". I then copied the compiled file to the /lib folder. At that point, everything was running smoothly!

The old RetroShard website is back online at: Leave a comment if you have any questions about the setup I've described. It's not very detailed but hopefully points out the main problems you may run into.

Friday, February 12, 2016


Two years have gone by since my last interactive fiction full game release, Blackness. Blackness was written in 3 hours for Ectocomp, so it's rather short and there isn't a lot of attention paid to detail. There may be a chance of entering that competition or another short competition this year with another small game written in Inform7. While the Hugo IF authoring language has now became my favorite platform for authoring IF, I do miss some of the conveniences and quirks of I7 and never have gotten around to using the OSX version of it much.

However, I did manage to get a demo of DPRK released. It didn't get a lot of play-tests, but the few random ones I did hear reports back from on sounded very positive aside from a movement bug. Around Christmas of last year, I returned to the project to begin working on the final version of the game. With a lot of help from Roody (author of RoodyLib) I've started a "simulation lab" of sorts to start developing and testing encounter and combat systems. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I think the project is still promising and have a positive outlook to get the rest of the content and system coding done by the end of the year.

In other Hugo related-project news, Cyberganked is also coming up! Robb Sherwin has created a character using a picture of myself and I will be writing up some dialogue drafts soon for him to digest into the game, as well as doing some testing as needed. I'm really looking forward to the release of this game and to playing it. Anyone who enjoyed Wizardry and text games I think will as well. Roody has also been hard at work on RoodyLib for this past year.. which Cyberganked and DPRK both utilize. He's also been working on things such as handicap-friendly interfacing and other Hugo magic lately.
In 2015, I did manage to keep a group of 6 going for a table-top RPG going since December of 2014. As a listener of Burzum, I heard of a game that Varg Vikernes created called MYFAROG. I missed out out the first printing in Halloween of 2014, but managed to score a 2nd printing copy of the 1st addition shortly after that. We began as me playing the role of "MythMaster" (Dungeon Master) which was a fun practice returning to creating stories, characters, local areas, etc on the fly while keeping campaign solidarity. Most of the players eventually bought books, and one player took over the role of MythMaster long enough for another player to spend a few months in another country and for me to actually play as a PC.. an experience I haven't had in a very, very long time. I blogged about our game here if you are interested in how it began.

I also hope to get a refurbished monitor from Arcade Buffett soon in the mail to finally get my Neo-Geo MVS-2 arcade machine running again. I bought this cabinet (my first!) in January of 2015 at an auction for 425$ before fees and it worked fine aside from monitor issues. The main culprit of the issues was a crappy Kortek chassis. After a lot of de-soldering and soldering to replace all of the capacitors and the flyback transformer, I learned the hard way replacement flybacks are just not available for the crappy Kortek. So, I ordered a complete monitor as I plan on keeping this machine for years anyway and want something solid (and non-Kortek). I may buy a seperate chassis and yoke to rebuild another monitor with the leftover Zenith 25 inch tube.

The only major non-work or non-DPRK distraction I can see coming up? The new Doom game in May. If it's all it promises to be, expect to see more in the Id Software section of my website! I've still got a "Photon Doom" project I have on a backburner that may end up ported from Doom3 to that. I won't know until I play it. If it's not fitting to Photon, Doom3 BFG will be the target for a new Photon Doom mod. If anyone reading this is already planing a Photon mod for any game engine, please contact me. I'd be interested in sharing ideas and assets.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Handful of IFcomp 2015 Entry Reviews

This year's Interactive Fiction Competition has a very large number of entries. I knew I wouldn't be able to play them all online, so I picked a few at random that had interesting descriptions. I ended up playing through and reviewing Crossroads, Life on Mars, Laid off from the Synesthesia Factory, Much Love, BJP, The Sueno, and Taghairm. I played a few others that I just could not finish either because I couldn't get into them or I glanced at the walkthough after a few turns and decided I didn't want to play though the game. Of course, I'll only be voting for the ones I've finished and reviewed here. There might be spoilers here, so if you are afraid of seeing any now is the time to look elsewhere!

Reviews being after the stars...

*    *    *    *    *


Interesting description, so trying this first. This Twine game was sort of interesting, but wasn’t interesting enough to play though again. I was expecting the text to be more graphic than it was due to the content warning. One typo I found that may be deprecated: “sand” where an “and” should be.


Scrolling thru the entries further so I don’t end up playing titles in the lower portion of the alphabet. Huh. A speed setting. And another content warning.. which is seems like a bit of a spoiler. There’s also a recommended playlist. While I like old Satyricon and some Aphex Twin songs, the two don’t seem to go together well if there should be a consistent mood to the game.

Spatterlight crashed when trying to use the email function, so I build Frotz from the latest source and ran the game in that. The email thing works now though, and I can see the text speed effect now which is pretty neat. Now, on to the actual game.

There aren’t a lot of rooms to explore, but given the setting there shouldn’t be. Using the “email” function seems to be the main thing driving the game until I get prompted that taking a nap might be a good idea. After the nap, more email and a robot needs my assistance. There wasn’t much more after that. Wasn’t too crazy about the ending. The game was mostly on-rails showing off a lot of text effects; the latter of which does make this a pretty cool little adventure.


And here we have another game with both a content warning and a recommended playlist. It promises to generate a readable, static story once I reach the end and also claims to be both short and completely puzzle-less. X GREEN. X BRAIN (surprised that one gave a response). CALL BRIAN (Huh. A response, but nothing that seems to be relevent). EXIT. Ah, that makes more sense.. DRIVE TO LAKE. Eh. PAINT LAKE. Ha! Myrtle Beach reference! God, how I’ve come to loathe that place since the arcade went to shit and they tore down the rides. Also, South of the Border! My family never did fall for that trap either though I also remember counting the signs as a kid.

Now I think I have a good idea of what this synpiece is.. but having it on while driving certainly feels wrong. I guess that depends on if I can still make out things or if the road is going to look chunky and crooked as it tastes. (That’s a synthestisia joke.) I end up at a lake with Brian where a “compromise” is met. I guess I got the OK ending. This was a neat little game and I’ll probably give it another play after the comp. I liked how it started completely abstract and hard to follow yet then started to make sense. I would gripe about things not being more explained, but I have the same gripe about the previous title I reviewed and this one at least warrants another play to perhaps tell more of the same story from different angles.


Another Twine entry. This one is just basically what feels like newspaper articles linked by verb hyperlinks. Not many of them, either. Not many choices here. While the story of the reporter in this one is inspiring and all, it’s rather political and if anything, this title warranted more of a “content warning” than the other 2.. though overall I think content warnings are stupid.


A game about a sleep study and lucid dreaming. This should be interesting. I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish the lucid dreaming game I made a prototype for.

We start out with good descriptions and all, but feels like I’m waiting in the sleep lab forever. Hm. I “look” in the Sleep Lab again after waiting many turns. I haven’t been prompted to do anything. Dr. Lynch is just “here, clipboard in hand”. I scroll back to look at all of the talking topics and ask about those. Still waiting. Oh. Consulting the walk thru says I really should ask about medication. OK, here we go. Going to try to not look at the walkthrough again now.

I can’t read or take the Frederick’s of Hollywood lingerie catalog?! No such thing?! Bah. Anyway, a few fairly simple puzzles progress the game along various snippets of moving through a house, some woods, and a town; separated by cutscenes of the doctor conducting the study interrupting your sleep with questions.

The inventory and puzzles in this game felt a bit clunky, but overall not a bad game and worth a play. I ended up returning to the walkthrough again a couple of times despite the suggestion that I should try not looking at it at all.


Another Twine game, but very different from any other I have encountered. Cool sounds add a neat atmosphere. Around the time I started to think “Well crap. Just like every other Twine game. Not many choices or forcing me to make choices I don’t want to make to finish the story.”, something neat happened when I clicked the forced answer a few times. It actually explained what in the world was the purpose of this, and in a cool way. I was surprised to enjoy this one. Cat lovers will probably hate it.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Day In DPRK demo released

After stabbing at this project off and on for three years, I'm finally releasing a demo to the public now that the foundation is in place. While this demo is not the final version, it demonstrates the system and sets the story into motion. I welcome people to try it out and if you have time send some feedback on the game either by email or commenting here. I'll try to update this demo if bad bugs are found and will note the version in the file name.

Again, please note that this is only about a third of the final game. I'm just eager to release a chunk of it to go ahead and start getting some feedback.

Here is what I would like to know from the test:

  1. What about the system of the game (parser, graphics, sound, etc) did you like or dislike? 
  2. What could you not do and wanted to be able to do? (What was missing?)
  3. Did you find any bugs or anything otherwise broken?
  4. And most importantly, are you interested in a final version of this?
Click here to download the demo and the program needed to play it from my website.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Redesign & Reflection on History of the Lab

 If you have visited this site before a couple of days ago, you may notice that things have been changed around a bit. Then again, you probably have not because I've neglected until today to have Google crawl the new site or even update Google Analytics to reflect the new URL, which should stay the same for quite some time unless I ever actually buy a domain or sells out. I've changed a lot to make things more flexible and more mobile-friendly. Some new sections to "Projects" will be added soon for my other projects, and there will also soon be a new page for the DPRK game. 

 Lab of Jizaboz was originally created in 1999 on a hosting site that offered free webspace called "50 megs". At the time I was working as a web producer for a local newspaper. My job at the time basically was importing tiffs off macs via a zip drive, importing them as jpegs and resizing them, and slapping HTML tags all around raw text dumps originally generated on ATEX machines. After it all looked good locally, I FTP'd it to the webserver and went home around 2:00 am. The website was a way of me having some sort of Internet presence as well as practice and learn new things for my job.

An ATEX terminal

 The site originally featured a tombstone in a dreary graveyard, with the words "THE UNDERGROUND LAB OF JIZABOZ" plastered across it. Of course there was MIDI music, a track called "devil" I found off some Halloween-related site with midi files and gifs flashing all over.  I had a main navigation menu table I had basically ripped off of at the time across the top with the URLS to my different sections, with slashes between them. The original content mainly consisted of random things I typed up about computers and video games, links to other sites, downloads for emulators and roms, and pictures of large, topless girls. The latter ended up getting me in a bit of trouble once I finally got a cable ISP and moved my site to their "free" website space.

 Eventually, once was actually producing things like my Doom 2 mod, maps for games, etc, all real "content" there became what I had made either by myself or with the help of a team. While the site has changed structure, domain names and types of content numerous times, the basic premise remains the same; this is my presence on the Internet, not Facebook.